Friday, October 12, 2007

Contracting Out the War in Iraq

After Blackwater USA’s recent street shoot out in Baghdad, which resulted in as many as 17 civilian deaths, the role of mercenaries in Iraq has received extra attention in the media. Although they have played a key role in the occupation of Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein, these “private security contractors” have for the most part flown under the public radar. For example, the debate over a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq usually centers around the 160,000 military personnel occupying the country. But what about the estimated 182,000 private contractors now deployed in Iraq? During the 1991 Gulf War, the troop-to-private contractor ratio was about 60 to 1. Now they outnumber uniformed troops, more than doubling the actual size of the occupation force.

Private contractors in Iraq do everything from cooking food and doing the laundry to driving trucks and building bridges. Using them on such a vast scale is part of the privatization of the war, which is not only politically convenient, but results in massive profits for the companies involved. As of July 2007, there were more than 630 war contracting companies working in Iraq for the U.S. government.

Not only has there been a “surge” of uniformed troops, but mercenaries have headed to Iraq by the thousands. The use of mercenaries has allowed the Pentagon to increase the number of armed troops on the ground without resorting to a draft. Although the UK has steadily drawn down its troop levels, many of these troops have been replaced by private contractors, and thus aren’t counted in the troop levels disclosed, thus cutting across the growing anti-war mood. And since they are technically “civilians”, the estimated 900 dead mercenaries and 13,000 wounded aren’t counted in the official casualty figures (over 200 Blackwater contractors have been killed alone).

Blackwater USA was founded in 1997 by former Navy Seal Erik Prince – with the help of his billionaire parents. Headquartered in North Carolina, it is one of at least 28 private security contractors operating in Iraq. It has an estimated 1,000 employees in Iraq, and specializes in protecting high level functionaries and dignitaries. The four mercenaries killed by a mob in Fallujah in March 2004, which subsequently led to the “Guernica”-style pulverization of that city by the U.S. military, were working for Blackwater.

They are part of a “shadow army” of an estimated 30,000 security contractors operating in Iraq that is better armed, trained, and funded than the militaries of many countries. According to Blackwater’s corporate website: “We are not simply a ‘private security’ company. We are a professional military, law enforcement, security, peacekeeping, and stability operations firm ... We have become the most responsive, cost-effective means of affecting the strategic balance in support of security and peace, and freedom and democracy everywhere.”

As with everything else under capitalism, the security contractor industry is ultimately about profits. In an astonishing report by Vanity Fair, it is estimated that private contractors working in Iraq are paid as much as much as the combined taxes paid by everyone in the U.S. with incomes under $100,000. Jeremy Scahill, an independent journalist who has written extensively on the subject reports: “Some in Congress estimate that up to 40 cents of every tax dollar spent on the war goes to corporate war contractors. At present, the United States spends about $2 billion a week on its Iraq operations.”

He continues: “RJ Hillhouse, a blogger who investigates the clandestine world of private contractors and U.S. intelligence, recently obtained documents from the Office of the Directorate of National Intelligence (DNI) showing that Washington spends some $42 billion annually on private intelligence contractors, up from $17.54 billion in 2000. Currently that spending represents 70 percent of the U.S. intelligence budget going to private companies.”

With a $750 million-plus contract in Iraq alone, Blackwater is a clear example of how family connections and hefty campaign contributions to politicians can lead to enrichment through government contracts. In total, billions of dollars have been handed out to companies such as DynCorp, Triple Canopy, Erinys and ArmorGroup.
These and other mercenary corporations also operate in Latin America, Africa, and other parts of the world. In Colombia, under the fig-leaf of the “war on drugs”, private defense contractors receive as much as half of $630 million in U.S. military “aid” sent as part of Plan Colombia, a spearhead of U.S. imperialism against the Latin American revolution.

In African countries such as Congo, Sudan, and Somalia, mercenary companies are cashing in on lucrative contracts handed out by the United Nations’ “peacekeeping” missions. Doug Brooks, a lobbyist for the private military industry, proudly explains that his association’s “member companies have more personnel working in U.N. and African Union peace operations than all but a handful of countries.”

These mercenaries are hired at extravagant rates of pay, far more than uniformed troops. Many soldiers “retire” from active duty military service and work for private security companies instead. It has been noted by some commentators that many are actually paid more than the Secretary of Defense. They are mostly ex-U.S. and UK special forces personnel (trained at tax-payer expense), but also include Chilean special forces from the Pinochet era and South African mercenaries from the apartheid era. It is not uncommon for the most-experienced of these “guns for hire” to make as much as $1,000 per day, with the average closer to $600 a day. By contrast, the average U.S. soldier makes just $57 per day.

The September 16th shooting of innocent civilians was not the first time Blackwater has been involved in this kind of incident. It was recently revealed that Blackwater guards had previously killed 21 Iraqi civilians and wounded 27. The State Department has reported 56 shooting incidents involving Blackwater USA in Iraq this year alone.
And yet, it remains unclear whether or not the “sovereign” Iraqi government has the “authority” to expel Blackwater from the country. Former U.S. proconsul Paul Bremer, who headed the Coalition Provisional Authority that governed Iraq after the fall of Saddam, passed “Order 17” before “handing power” to the Iraqis in 2004, an order which guarantees immunity from prosecution for private contractors, including his own private Blackwater guards.

The latest incident was too much even for the puppet government of Al-Maliki. But after initially “expelling” Blackwater from the country, the Iraqi government had to back off. Blackwater is such an integral part of the occupation that without them, the security situation would deteriorate even more quickly. They now say that Blackwater’s license to operate in Iraq expired on June 2, 2006, meaning its employees are no longer immune from prosecution. They now want the U.S. to terminate all contracts with Blackwater in Iraq within six months and pay $8 million in compensation to each of the victims’ families. This situation underlines the true relationship of forces in the new “free and democratic” Iraq. The fact is, the Iraqi government is entirely at the mercy of the U.S. imperialists and their hired guns.

But who really controls these forces? Even from the perspective of the ruling class, the widespread use of mercenaries has gotten out of control. Former Ambassador to Iraq Joseph Wilson thinks “it’s extraordinarily dangerous when a nation begins to outsource its monopoly on the use of force and the use of violence in support of its foreign policy or national security objectives. [This] makes [private security contractors] a very powerful interest group within the American body politic and an interest group that is in fact armed. And the question will arise at some time: to whom do they owe their loyalty?”

Blackwater mercenaries – specialists in protecting private property through the use of overwhelming force – were among the first sent into New Orleans after the Katrina disaster. There is talk of privatizing the Border Patrol as well. This is not the distant future, but the very real present. Capitalism has nothing to offer the world working class but repression of the majority and mega-profits for the few; or at least, to the highest bidder.John Peterson

54 comments:

Daniel said...

I had no idea there were so many contractors in Iraq, Renegade. It's scary to realize they outnumber American troops.

Capitalism has finally entered the Armed Forces. War will escalate dramatically. Wonder when they'll start putting a bounty on people's heads? Won't be long!

enigma4ever said...

I had no idea about how much was being spent..unreal..this is just the tip of one huge iceberg...wow...stunning..great post btw..

( I thought I added you to my blogroll- but somehow it is not up- I must have made an error- I will fix tonight- sorry)_

Tina said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tina said...

Sadly, here's a little known fact about the massive power private contractors have in their hands and have had since 2004 (via The Nation 9/28/07):
On June 27, 2004, the day before Paul Bremer skulked out of Baghdad, he issued a decree known as Order 17, which granted sweeping immunity to private contractors working for the US in Iraq, effectively barring the Iraqi govt from prosecuting contractor crimes in domestic courts. The timing was curious, given that Bremer was leaving after allegedly "handing over sovereignty" to the Iraqi govt.
Too bad for the already weak Iraqi govt, eh? Even worse for the innocent citizens who have the misfortune of being on the receiving end of a mercenary's gun.

Here's what author Jeremy Scahill had to say about Blackwater in a March 2007 interview w/ Truthdig, and why we Americans should care:
"But what contractors also do is they take away, they chisel away at the democratic process in this country because if you can deploy 100,000 contractors, that’s 100,000 soldiers you don’t have to convince to enlist in your military. That’s 100,000 soldiers whose deaths aren’t going to be counted in the official toll. And what I think is one of the most disturbing realities of this privatized war is that an adventurous president like Bush can simply just purchase soldiers to wage these wars. You no longer have to go through the Congress, you no longer have to try to convince young people in this country to join the military in the same kinds of numbers. You can hire troops from the United States, Chile, Columbia, Bulgaria, Honduras, Nicaragua, you name it. It’s a total subversion of what should be a necessary resistance to offensive wars."

Blackwater is a frightening GOP behemoth. Seriously, just look at their PR firm, Alexander Strategy Group:
The firm has links to no fewer than 3 of the GOP scandals that are tied to Tom DeLay. One partner, former DeLay aide Tony Rudy, is a focus of a federal investigation of convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff. The group's founder, former DeLay chief of staff Ed Buckham, set up a South Korea junket for his old boss that violated ethics rules. And the firm represents a company whose owner bribed former GOP Representative Randy Cunningham.

And the scary, all powerful, greedy, and wingnutty GOP ties don't stop there:
Erik Prince's father, Edgar, was a close friend of former Republican presidential candidate and antichoice leader Gary Bauer. In 1988 the elder Prince helped Bauer start the Family Research Council. They were heavy funders of James Dobson and Focus on the Family.
Erik Prince's sister, Betsy, used to chair the Michigan Republican Party and is married to Dick DeVos, whose father, billionaire and big-time contributor to the Republican Party Richard DeVos, is co-founder of the major Republican benefactor Amway. Yes, Amway. The "pyramid scheme" people.
And among Blackwater's sr executives are former CIA official J. Cofer Black, who once oversaw the extraordinary-rendition program and led the post-9/11 hunt for Osama bin Laden (and he currently serves as GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney's top counterterrorism adviser), and Joseph Schmitz, the Pentagon Inspector General under Donald Rumsfeld.

Blackwater... a very, very scary tree with deep and invasive roots that slowly has taken over the forest. And we the people are paying for their seedlings.

Mr. Beamish the Kakistocrat said...

This is the wave of the future.

Graeme said...

I hope misguided Ron Paul supporters realize this is the kind of crap he supports.

Mr. Beamish the Kakistocrat said...

Graeme,

Ron Paul supporters, all 23 of them, are too busy jamming media opinion polls with multiple votes.

That said, his "letters of marque" idea wouldn't be all that bad, in the hands of a different President who wouldn't seek Osama Bin Laden's permission to defend American foreign policy interests to avoid "blowback."

Ron Paul sucks.

Renegade Eye said...

Daniel: The big news is that there are Kurdish who saw the incident where 17 people were killed, and they say Blackwater is 100% guilty. Kurdish observers are considered pro-american, so their testimony counts more.

Beamish: Rumsfeld's low amount of troops, combined with more privatizing, is a direct reaction to the strength of antiwar protest. This strategy is to diffuse antiwar protest.

In the old days, if you needed a hired gun, you just replied to the classified section in "Soldier of Fortune" magazine. I bought SOF Magazine to order "paper weights" for my desk.

Tina: The Republicans feed from the same trough, as Democrats. Check out the money flow in the election cycle, now with Dems more popular, the GOP fundraising is shrinking. Granted the GOP has Blackwater ties, the Democrats aren't going to deal them big blows.

Graeme: Ron Paul is why anti-imperialism, isn't by itself progressive per se. Another so called antiwar Republican is Pat Buchanon.

Enigma: Thank you for linking. If I only linked to those I was closest to politically, I would have about two links.

LeftyHenry said...

yeah the imperialists love mercenary companies. Mercenaries aren't bound by the same codes of war as regular soldiers.

Mr. Beamish the Kakistocrat said...

Beamish: Rumsfeld's low amount of troops, combined with more privatizing, is a direct reaction to the strength of antiwar protest. This strategy is to diffuse antiwar protest.

Hogwash.

Rumsfeld's "low amount of troops" came before the war and the antiwar protests. Thank the Clinton administration for disbanding 6 full divisions of the Army (when the "era of big government" allegedly ended - those of you uncomfortable with the idea of the "size of government" being measured by the number of military personnel it employs ought to shy away from the Democratic Party - I digress)

Renegade Eye said...

Clinton was far from being an antiwar liberal. He carried on Reagan's revolution, culminating in "welfare reform."

He would have probably used a small force, no different than Rumsfeld.

Modern military theory factors in antiwar protest.

Mr. Beamish the Kakistocrat said...

Ren,

Maybe you're misunderstanding me. Clinton would have used a small force because - following Clinton's military cuts of 6 Army divisions - all we had in 2003 is a small force.

There's a chronology to America's ill preparedness for war to consider. Even in the Presidential debates of 2000, Bush was smacking Gore around on the deterioration of readiness status across the board.

Aaron A. said...

It's crazy. And it's not just with security forces like Blackwater.
Much of the Army's Quartermaster (Support and Supply) has been and is being replaced by private companies.

You kind of wonder if instead of rallying outside of an out-of-touch congress, the people should be outside the office of an "unaccountable" CEO.

Ben Heine said...

Very interesting facts, Ren, thanks !

Cla said...

Ren,

I'm already aware of all this business being done in Iraq. But, great post anyway. Everyone needs to know.

roman said...

Interesting post.

Blackwater mercenaries – specialists in protecting private property through the use of overwhelming force – were among the first sent into New Orleans after the Katrina disaster.

When most of the cops abandoned their posts in the aftermath of the storm, it was great to have this service available at a moments notice and not the usual couple of weeks for the Ntl Guard.
Who ya gonna call? Ghostbusters?

Slave Revolt said...

Wouldn't it be cool to see the mercenaries and the US troops fight each other? Just a thought....

Since mercenaries are scum motivated by profit--no doubt that nationalism will trump the perverted 'for-profit' mindset of macho gangs.

Tina said...

Ren, I agree that "the Republicans feed from the same trough, as Democrats."
In fact, it was the Clinton administration that gave Blackwater their first federal contract, but I can't help but think how vastly different things would be in terms of how massively powerful Blackwater has become if a President Gore were in charge instead of George "God talks to me" Bush.
And let's face it: I'm certain that the uber-evangelical born again nutjobs at Blackwater are pissing their Christian pants in sheer joy to engage in a neo-Crusade against those who have been quaintly tagged Islamofascists.

Renegade Eye said...

Tina: Clinton's policies were Reaganesque, particularly the "cut big government" moves. Gore was in charge of making govt. smaller.

Roman: Blackwater gets paid $950.00 per person/per day in New Orleans. The mercenaries get $350.00.

In light of Bush's sloooooooooooww response in sending the Nat'l Guard, and all the foreign aid that was refused (millions of $$), their role is dubious. Were they supposed to be law enforcement? Who are they accountable to?

Beamish: Less forces is a principle of the Rumsfeld doctrine.

steven rix said...

Just got to Texas; see yall tomorrow ;)

Mr. Beamish the Kakistocrat said...

Ren,

Less forces is a principle of the Rumsfeld doctrine.

True. But, we had the "less forces" part, before the "principled doctrine" part.

"We go to war with the Army we have, not the Army we want..."

politiques USA said...

Another so called antiwar Republican is Pat Buchanon
Buchanan, right?

I had seen a few months ago a video of a blackwater helicopter being shot down in Iraq; that was pretty much disgusting, because the only survivor who escaped the crash (I beleive he was a guy from Ukraine) had been gunned down by an Iraqi civilian. Also blackwater bodyguards are the ones who started the problems with the Sunnis in Fallujah a few years ago, just to refresh your memory.
We can call them mercenaries, i call them criminals. Btw their salary is between $500 and $1,000 a day; this is where your tax money is going.

Mr. Beamish the Kakistocrat said...

Pat Buchanan left the Republican Party in 1999. No conservatives noticed.

roman said...

politiques,

blackwater bodyguards are the ones who started the problems with the Sunnis in Fallujah a few years ago

Their SUV was attacked, they were killed and their bodies were shred to pieces and their body parts were hung as displays from bridge supports. If you call that starting a problem in Fallujah then you are suffering from a real disconnect in rationalizing cause and effect.
To follow your line of reasoning, the men, women and children in the twin towers of the World Trade Center started the 9/11 "problem" because they were there and therefore they were attacked thus causing the bad vibes we have today with Muslim extremists. Yeah.. that's the ticket.

Graeme said...

Not quite Roman. A better comparison would be the Iraqi people killed by blackwater and the American people killed in the twin towers. Both were killed by foreign extremists.

roman said...

Graeme,

Leave it to you to fly off on a different tangent.. but I have one for you. So what you're saying is that the 3000 killed here are comparable to the ??? (unknown- were they combatants or innocents?)over there???
That's your comparison?

sonia said...

Contracting Out the War in Iraq

Interesting developpments. It will a good test for free market capitalism. We will see, once US troops (a statist entity) leave Iraq and hired mercenaries take their place, whether the private sector can do a more competent job than government employees...

This slogan might actually convince some Republicans in Congress to support the withdrawal of US troops: "Private sector can do a better job, even in Iraq"...

sonia said...

And another thing.

US soldiers must really be pissed. They risk their lives for a relatively shitty pay, while the mercenaries are paid handsomely for doing exactly the same job in exactly the same country. And mercenaries can quit their jobs anytime.

Then again, to be hired as a mercenary by Blackwater, your CV probably has to include at least 2 tours of duty in Iraq.

So the Iraq War is simply a government training program for future Blackwater employees...

politiques USA said...

Their SUV was attacked, they were killed and their bodies were shred to pieces ... blah blah yada yada
That is the official version from the MSM (Faux News). The real version did not happen this way: the US troops were occupying a school and they were on the top of the roof. People who wanted to send their children to school started rioting and the troops shot in the crowd. This is how it started and then everything went to hell from this point. There is an excellent documentary tracking the events from Fallujah realized by a japanese journalist but I forgot the name of this documentary.
I won't even defend both sides but from a historical point of view, we are better off putting things straight to their place.

roman said...

politiques,

So let me get this straight... what you're saying now is that it was the US troops on top of the school that were supposedly shooting innocent children trying to attend classes that started the trouble in Fallujah and not the Blackwater folks? So Blackwater did not start the trouble in Fallujah after all. Then why do anti-war leftists insist on painting Blackwater as dastardly and evil? All they're trying to do is provide safe transportation for officials and dignitaries like Hillary Clinton in a war zone. Yada, yada.. :-)

politiques USA said...

To make it short, they lynched the guy from blackwater: he was wearing a military uniform and was driving a hummer if I have a good memory. Then you know the rest of the story, they bombed fallujah, they used white phosphorus...etc Tomorrow if I have time I will have a chat with a guy from blackwater to find out if they are only in charge of bodyguard activities.
I knew a guy from blackwater who was working for the English and he was in charge of protecting the Brits when his car (a porsche 4X4) blew up on a roadside bomb. It was a little contigent of 4 persons and I believe they were in a psyop mission (partitioning Iraq). Check on the BBC website to find out more.

politiques USA said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
politiques USA said...

Most of the time I agree with the left libertarians from the US.

politiques USA said...

Blackwater USA tried to take at least two Iraqi military aircraft out of Iraq two years ago and refused to give the planes back when Iraqi officials sought to reclaim them, according to a congressional committee investigating the private security contractor.

Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, wants the company to provide all documents related to the attempted shipment and to explain where the aircraft are now.

In a letter sent Friday to Erik Prince, Blackwater's top executive, Waxman said he learned of the 2005 attempt from a military official who contacted the committee. That official is not identified in the letter, nor is the type of aircraft.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/huff-wires/20071019/blackwater-iraq/

LeftyHenry said...

what's most shocking about Blackwater in my opinion is the fact that they number more than actual US troops in Iraq and don't have to abide by any military laws. Few people realized that, but now people are starting to understand what is really going on

Mr. Beamish the Kakistocrat said...

LeftyHenry,

Blackwater itself does not outnumber US military forces in Iraq.

However, Blackwater plus all the folks from other private military contractors and security service companies operating in Iraq does outnumber US military forces there. Blackwater just has the biggest slice of the PMC pie there.

a rose is a rose said...

you've done a very impressive amount of research on this.

it's not only frightening but soul-less (the situation, not your posting)

beatroot said...

What people are missing is that the huge use of Blackwaters shows that:

a) this has always been a kind of occupation by proxy. Our ruling classes can not muster enough commitment even for foreign occupations anymore. So they contract out the occupation.
b) The use of Private contractors enables Bush etc to appear to be pulling out of Iraq, when in fact more and more are going in.
c) It enables ruling class to disclaim responsibility for the occupation. This is a common theme these days. The EU, UN is used to pass contentious legislation and so save domestic rulers the responsibility.

All in all it shows how confused the ruling class is about its own occupations. This is not a sign of strength but weakness.

politiques USA said...

There is a hub in Europe for security firms such as blackwater and one of these security firms is situated in Ireland and it has never been mentioned by the MSM. I heard that most of the US soldiers go to Europe to be hired by this security firm since the payrate is higher than blackwater. Their activities is concentrated in Iraq and Afghanistan and they play a role at the CIA level. Does anyone know something about it?

Mr. Beamish the Kakistocrat said...

Politiques USA,

Read up on Executive Outcomes.

Malagent said...

This post is filled with inaccuracies or outright lies.

Don't you think it's possible to disagree and or oppose an issue without lying about it?

First off can you provide a source for saying over 200 BW contractors have been killed? or did you bother to check that?

You also state that Prince started BW with the Help of his billionaire parents. It was an inheritance.

And stating "Now they outnumber uniformed troops, more than doubling the actual size of the occupation force."

What are the numbers? News agencies report a wide range of numbers, just depends on which day you watch. Additionally, many of the contractors are hired from the local population, as such they are not an occupation force. And when your talking about mercenaries why should you even consider the contractors that are delivering supplies and rebuilding infrastructure?

A little further down you state "They are part of a “shadow army” of an estimated 30,000 security contractors operating in Iraq..."

Considering over 100,000 troops are in Iraq how can an additional 30,000 more than double the size of the occupying force as you stated earlier in the article? Or is that part of the magic socialist math that makes you think socialism could actually work?

Copying a lie does not make it true, making up information does not make it a fact and repeating the same "capitalism is evil" junk does not make capitalism evil. It's the only system that has worked thus far.

beatroot said...

I think the disparity over the numbers is because 30,000 are goijg around with guns and shooting people - like Blackwater - and then there are 70,000 others doing all sorts of jobs, which in the past, would have been something to do with the military - and therefor are still part of the occupation.

sonia said...

Malagent,

Copying a lie does not make it true, making up information does not make it a fact and repeating the same "capitalism is evil" junk does not make capitalism evil.

Well said. But I think you should lower your expectations. Expecting leftists to tell the truth and nothing but the truth, is a bit like expecting a swimmer to always remain dry...

Renegade Eye said...

Malagent: I'm sure you've experienced being called a troll when you visit a left blog. This blog has commenters from the whole spectrum of politics. I don't think you are a troll, and I know John isn't a liar.

Sonia: I'm tired of "the left" in the abstract. In the abstract the left includes liberal Democrats, Stalinists, anarchists, popular fronters etc. While I support leftist causes, I only endorse my comrades.

Why should I differentiate you from Rudy Giuliani, Ann Coulter, Lindsay Graham or Jerry Falwell's corpse? The answer is I shouldn't.

politiques USA said...

Capitalism would be okey in an autarcy model, or even in a globalization model between the offer and demand in terms of pure keynesian economics. Nowadays we are far different from this model, I would situate the US model in a neoliberalist portrait where a bunch of cockroaches/vermins need to influence their power to pursue their own happiness to the detriment of other countries. In the end, there is no other substitute for the leftto justify our fight for our own existence in the name of salvation and integrity.

sonia said...

Ren,

Rudy Giuliani, Ann Coulter, Lindsay Graham or Jerry Falwell's corpse

I certainly wouldn't be offended to be included in their company. But whether they would welcome me with open arms is far from certain.

malagent said...

Renegade Eye:

re "sure you've experienced being called a troll when you visit a left blog."

It's rare that I visit a left blog, as I'm firmly anchored a little right of center. However, I've grown accustomed to being characterized with many appellations; ranging form "troll" to my personal favorite "Neocon turd monkey" - I'm not even sure what that's supposed to imply.

re: "...I don't think you are a troll,..."

Good. If I were a troll be either definition would be irrelevant to the validity of my arguments.

"Definition of: trolling

(1) Surfing, or browsing, the Web.
(2) Posting derogatory messages about sensitive subjects on newsgroups and chat rooms to bait users into responding.
(3) Hanging around in a chat room without saying anything, like a "peeping tom.""[1]

I fit the definition of (1) for sure, as it would not be possible to read a blog or produce commentary on such blog unless I browed the internet. My comments and arguments may not be polite, but I don't feel they fit the term derogatory. so despite being intended to receive a response it would not fit (2) well. The last (3) is obviously not applicable here.

I'm fairly certain that I'm not a mythical Scandinavian anthropomorphic creature[2] as well. But that should still have no bearing on this topic.

re: "and I know John isn't a liar."
I don't know John and I would think it would be fair to assume that many if not most of your readers do not as well. However, there is obviously some information that is either a lie or based on inaccurate source data. In either case it is hardly logical to base an argument for or against any particular issue on non facts. Although it does make for a good "scoop" for reporters or a great "hook" for bloggers.

As an example I shall give the total number of contractors in use in Iraq and who they are, which is very important:

Total: 182,000
(118,000 Iraqi, 43,000 Other, 21,000 US)
[3][4]

Your article states "But what about the estimated 182,000 private contractors now deployed in Iraq?... Now they outnumber uniformed troops, more than doubling the actual size of the occupation force."

Now compare that to troop levels of 177,000 U.S., while it is a lot it is important to note that the vast majority are Iraqi - also most are in non combatant type roles. Primarily construction. How can 118,000 Iraqis be considered an "Occupation force" in Iraq? Particularly when the mostly drive trucks or work in construction.

So in this case to say that the war been contracted out becomes an informal fallacy in the form of a sophism.

The average reader will never research any of this and the emotional impact will be evidence in their minds.


I continue to hear that the U.S. could not maintain troop levels if not for private contracts. Again, we reach a fallacy in that the troop levels are much higher than reported. ~177,000 U.S. + 165,000 New Iraqi Army + 175,000 Peshmerga Army (Kurds) + 225,000 Iraqi National Police.

That's ~517,000 troops (~742,000 including police) so the contractors are a relatively insignificant part of the equation. The vast majority of the private security contractors such as BW or Armor Group provide training to the Iraqi Police, security to Iraqi & U.S. diplomats and transportation security.

Re:
"the debate over a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq usually centers around the 160,000 military personnel occupying the country. But what about the estimated 182,000 private contractors now deployed in Iraq?"

Are we supposed to withdraw the 118,000 Iraqi troops? What about the 34,000 remaining non security personnel who are trying to rebuild the infrastructure? I would think this would very harmful to Iraq.

Re:
"Using them on such a vast scale is part of the privatization of the war, which is not only politically convenient, but results in massive profits for the companies involved"

What source have you for the "massive" profits for the companies involved? Recent testimony to congress is that BW's profit is ~10% public records for other companies involved actually shows some with a net loss. Also of the roughly 600 contractors operating in Iraqi many are not U.S. companies or even companies from coalition nations. A good percentage are in fact Iraqi companies. While i have no doubt that there is some level of corruption involved I do doubt that it is of any greater percentage than in any other field.

Re:
"use of mercenaries has allowed the Pentagon to increase the number of armed troops on the ground without resorting to a draft"

Referring to security and training personnel as "Mercenaries" is incorrect and only serves to sensationalize the issue.


Re:
"They are part of a “shadow army” of an estimated 30,000 security contractors operating in Iraq that is better armed, trained, and funded than the militaries of many countries."

Pure sensationalism - My local security company would qualify as better trained and armed than many of the world 195+ countries. Some of which do not even have militaries. This information has no bearing on the issue at all - except for one very important fact: "30,000 security contractors"

That is a direct contradiction to the usage of the previous 182,000 "occupation force"

It's always nice when the article proves itself wrong. If there are 30,000 security contractors and 742,000 personnel operating overall that equals 4.0431% of the total armed personnel. Which I think everyone would agree is insignificant at best.

Re:
"With a $750 million-plus contract in Iraq alone, Blackwater is a clear example of how family connections and hefty campaign contributions to politicians can lead to enrichment through government contracts. In total, billions of dollars have been handed out to companies such as DynCorp, Triple Canopy, Erinys and ArmorGroup."


BW made legal contributions to several political parties, yet they are still under scrutiny and investigation. Other people made significant contributions and did not get contracts.


Re:
"The September 16th shooting of innocent civilians was not the first time Blackwater has been involved in this kind of incident. It was recently revealed that Blackwater guards had previously killed 21 Iraqi civilians and wounded 27"

Sounds bad unless you knew that over 16,000 missions have been undertaken by BW alone. Of which there have been 200 (1.25%) where force was used. If you take into account all wounded or killed civilians (65 by your numbers) that is 0.4% of their total mission count. Considering that all this has occurred in an urban warfare environment I think those are very good records.


Re:
"...remains unclear whether or not the “sovereign” Iraqi government has the “authority” to expel Blackwater from the country. ...Order 17” ...which guarantees immunity from prosecution for private contractors"

This order is standard contractual language. It is available on the internet and clearly states the immunity is from prosecution in Iraqi courts and is not intended for the protection of individuals and can be waived. Contractors have already been held criminally liable in U.S. courts prior to the media and blog frenzy over the recent incidents, yet many, even congress still like to say it remains unclear.
Order 17 PDF

I could go on and on with this but I grow weary of the endeavor. Therefore I shall leave you with this:

Psychology has long studied the non-logical aspects of argumentation. For example, studies have shown that simple repetition of an idea is often a more effective method of argumentation than appeals to reason. Propaganda often consists of such non-logical argumentation.[5]

In the hope that I have appealed to logic, reason, and critical thinking I have provided the sources for my arguments. I intend to use these as a post as well and will link back to this article. If anyone has any sources or evidence that any of my information is incorrect, please let me know as I want to base my conclusions on fact rather than fallacies.

Sources & Reference:
[1] http://www.pcmag.com/encyclopedia_term/0,2542,t=trolling&i=53181,00.asp
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_troll
[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Troll
[3] "Private contractors outnumber U.S. troops in Iraq". By T. Christian Miller. Los Angeles Times. July 4, 2007
[4] "Contractor deaths add up in Iraq". By Michelle Roberts. Deseret Morning News. Feb. 24, 2007
[5] Jacques Ellul, Propaganda, Vintage, 1973, ISBN 0394718747

Mr. Beamish the Kakistocrat said...

Malagent,

A "private contractor" could be a construction worker supervising the laying of a concrete foundation for a school.

Yes, they outnumber US forces in Iraq.

They even outnumber private military contractors in Iraq.

Thank you for illustrating the distinction.

Renegade Eye said...

Malagent: Your blog is hostile to my Safari Browser. I plan to visit your blog, from another computer.

John Peterson said...

Malagent: All statistics in the article were straight out of reports in the media - I don't "invent" facts - there's no need when the actual facts speak for themselves.

It's telling that your "attack" was based on a few allegedly incorrect numbers, but did not deal at all with the actual substance of the arguments I made. You do not deny the role of private contractors in the war (some armed, some doing laundry - thanks to all who clarified that basic point). You do not deny their role in looting the treasury to line the pocket of a few.

Sure, the precise figures at any moment are impossible to come by, but the fundamental points I made remain completely valid. For example, what do you make of the new report that DynCorp can't account for over a BILLION dollars given to them to train Iraqi police? Perhaps it's $.9 billion or $1.3 billion that's missing - but the general point is clear to anyone with even a bit of integrity when it comes to rational debate.

http://www.gulf-news.com/region/Iraq/10162190.html

As for capitalism being the only system that works, I've got news for you: slavery was around for thousands of years, feudalism "worked" for several centuries, and capitalism long ago ceased to "work", i.e. to play a progressive role in developing the means of production and improving the quality of life of the MAJORITY of humanity. That's why it's got to go, to be replaced by a system that can actually make use of all the human and natural resource potential on the planet.

But if you consider WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and the myriad other wars that have plagued humanity for the last 100 years is an example of capitalism "working", I'd hate to see it "not working".

Capitalism played a historically progressive role for a certain time, but those days are long gone.

Malagent said...

John Peterson,

re "All statistics in the article were straight out of reports in the media - I don't "invent" facts - there's no need when the actual facts speak for themselves."

I think we could all agree that reports from the media are not always synonymous with fact. I can point out several widely varying figures for the same thing in the media reports. To provide the figures without verification is not responsible. Perpetuation of a lie is just as bad.

If you choose to consider my rebuttal as an attack that's fine.

The main substance of your argument is the numbers, from your post and from the massive quantity of media articles as well.
This is also evidenced by the response in the comments.

Without your usage of the "facts" your article could be summed up with this:

Capitalism is bad.
There is a war.
War is bad.
Companies are making money working in Iraq.

If a response is coming from inaccurately information then the response will be flawed.


re "You do not deny the role of private contractors in the war (some armed, some doing laundry"

There is nothing to deny. Private contractors are working in Iraq, I am simply providing a response to the inaccuracies in the article.

re "You do not deny their role in looting the treasury to line the pocket of a few."

I did address this in my response.

re "Sure, the precise figures at any moment are impossible to come by, but the fundamental points I made remain completely valid"

Why then are the figures presented as accurate and with such emphasis?

You wrote an article about numbers and deny their accuracy then state that the fundamental points remain accurate? I fail to see the logic in that statement. Perhaps if you outlines a few of these fundamental points?

As for the DynCorp issue, I have read the article and at first glance it looks like an accounting issue on the part of the Gov. - If DynCorp or any contractor commits fraud I hope they are found out and punished, as it's my tax money also. The government loosing money through careless accounting which make fraud possible is not exactly uncommon and transcends administrations and political parties. I do believe that it has to be dealt with.

My main "fundamental point" is that your article is ambiguous at best and willfully deceitful at worst.

The facts are that most of these "contractors" are Iraqis doing work in Iraq. Most of the contract work is being done for the benefit of Iraq in the form of building a usable infrastructure and providing security for the country.
Is it a bad thing to build up an infrastructure to provide a higher quality of life to the Iraqi people? Is it a bad thing to employ Iraqis to do this?

How are these bad things? Except that it's helping a capitalist society develop - is that the real issue?

For the profit issue. I've addressed that as well, having run a business myself I know that a 10% profit is not amazing or uncommon. Many companies make much more than that.

You, and the media at large, have tried to state that security contractors are immune to any sort of punishment for actions they may take. I've addressed that fallacy as well. It makes for a sensation story but it's not a fact.

I stand by my statement, if you or anyone else can show that I have made an error in fact I would love to know about it - I want to base my position on facts, not emotion or sensationalism.

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